Competency Means Wellness for Prosecutors.

Author:Ashley, Mary

The gentleman in the office next to me often stops at my front door after I have been banging away on the computer for hours and makes the comment, "Self-Care, Mary, Self-Care". While kind and thoughtful, it never changes my constant staring at the screen, writing and typing emails. For I am a lawyer, you see. And that is what we do if we are not in court. We read, we write, we type, we edit, we research and we endlessly communicate on computers, phones, tablets and laptops. All day, every day. Of course, I know what the gentleman is trying to say. Get up, walk around, take a break. But we generally don't do that. And why? Because the work needs to be done and we love those deadlines and hours devoted to our craft. Is this really what being a lawyer is all about? We've seen the movies and heard the cliches about the two martini lunches and the never-ending happy hours of lawyers drowning their sorrows or celebrating their victories and coping with the demands of the profession. Is that real? I have never had a martini work lunch, but have I enjoyed that extra glass of chardonnay at the end of an emotionally draining day? You bet I have. And I am not alone.

Wellness is one of the biggest buzz words these days, but what does it mean, particularly in the legal profession? What is the deal with adults needing life coaches, resiliency classes, support teams and mental health training to do their jobs? For cops and firefighters, they are in the trenches first-hand every day and are our front-line of defense in protecting the communities we all swear to protect. They deal with emergencies and certainly deal with acute trauma. But as it turns out, prosecutors are in the metaphorical trenches as well, often times for years after the initial event has occurred. The American Bar Association (ABA) is taking notice of the issue and making serious recommendations on how to incorporate "wellness" into the broader attorney community. In August 2017, the Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Weil-Being issued "The Path to Lawyer Well Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change". It is 73 pages of extremely well thought out recommendations and suggestions to address the well-being of attorneys and cites studies, articles, surveys and research in the field on the topic. Of interest is the recommendation to modify the Rules of Professional Responsibility requirements for lawyers to include an individual's well-being as part of a lawyer's duty of competence. This duty of competence includes legal knowledge, maintaining currency in the law, the ability to represent a client, going to court, arguing the law and be prepared for their cases. The focus...

To continue reading